Cheshire West and Chester's Full Council meeting to be held remotely due to COVID concerns
28 June 2021Concerns over rising cases of COVID-19 infection in Cheshire West and Chester mean that its Full Council meeting scheduled for 15 July will now be an informal remote meeting rather than being held in person.
The decision to revert to the virtual format has been made to safeguard Council members, support staff and others who attend the meetings from the risk of contracting the disease on the basis of the advice of Cheshire West and Chester’s Director of Public Health and after taking advice from the Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer.
In normal circumstances, the Full Council meeting scheduled to take place on 15 July 2021 would be a formal public meeting of all 70 Members plus supporting officers and would be open to the public to speak and attend. The meeting would usually take place in the council chamber in Wyvern House, Winsford and most attendees would usually be in the room for up to four hours.
The Full Council meeting is subject to the requirements set out in the Local Government Act 1972 (LGA 1972). One such legal requirement is that Members must be physically present at the meeting in order for decisions to be made. The meeting must also be open to the public to attend. Temporary arrangements for councils to take decisions during the pandemic were established by Parliament, but these lapsed in May.
Holding the Full Council meeting virtually means that formal decisions cannot be taken directly at the meeting itself. However, the same issues that would have been debated at an in-person meeting can be debated virtually. Formal decisions will instead by taken, after the council meeting, through the Council’s established procedures for urgent decision-making.
Councillor Bob Rudd, Council Chairman, said: "Cheshire West and Chester has experienced a sharp increase in COVID-19 infection rates over the past few weeks.
"In the light of this, the Council has taken the correct legal guidance and advice from our Public Health team and taken the decision not to hold the meeting in person. Instead, we will host an informal remote meeting which will be broadcast to residents as a webcast.
"This approach poses no public health risk and members of the public will be able to speak remotely and ask questions as part of the normal democratic process. It will still provide Members the opportunity to submit questions and motions. Questions can be posed and answered and motions on notice debated in the usual way.
"The Council had considered deferring the meeting until a later date. However, even if we deferred the meeting by a few weeks, there is no guarantee that the public health situation would improve well enough to proceed with the Full Council meeting at that time."
Councillor Rudd added: "We have a number of formal decisions that need to be made at our 15 July meeting, and residents can be reassured that their elected representatives will be given every opportunity to have their say on the issues open for discussion. We are extending the discussion time to ensure that everyone who wishes to speak on a particular issue will be able to do so.
"Full in-person meetings of Full Council will be re-established as soon as the public health situation allows, and it is not the intention that remote meetings become a normal means of holding Full Council meetings. It is therefore the intention to hold an in-person Council meeting on 21 October 2021."
The borough has seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with many of the new cases being the Delta variant. The borough’s current seven-day incidence rate stands at 170 per 100,000 people.
Cheshire West and Chester's Director of Public Health, Ian Ashworth, said it was important for everyone to remain vigilant against COVID-19.
"As the rate of infection has continued to rise across the borough, we have had to give careful consideration to the meetings and events that can be held in our borough. It does not make sense based on our current infection rate to put 80 individuals together in a room for several hours," he said.
"Our overriding priority is the health and safety of the public, our elected members and staff, and the Council must lead by example when it comes to preventing the further spread of the infection."
You can more COVID-19 updates, information and guidance at Cheshire West and Chester Council's website: www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/